Trisha Rao has been painting since the age of 2, and has always loved to express herself through art and poetry. Now 12, she’s created over 300 acrylic paintings, and is the proud author of an award-winning book, “Believe in Yourself”. We are honored that Trisha offered her incredible talents to WYSK to paint a woman everyone should know, whom she counts among her personal role models – NASA Mathematician, Katherine Johnson.

In 2016, Katherine Johnson’s untold story was brought to life on the big screen in Hidden Figures. The film celebrates Katherine, along with Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, as the three brilliant African-American women working at NASA who served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit. Born August 26, 1918, Katherine spent over thirty-three years at NACA and NASA, where she made fundamental contributions to the Mercury and Apollo missions, the space shuttle, the mathematics of space flight, astronaut emergency navigation systems, satellite tracking techniques, and plans for a future Mars mission.

Working in acrylic on canvas, Trisha chose to paint Katherine Johnson for WYSK because of the deep admiration she holds for the pioneering mathematician and National Medal of Freedom recipient, who turned 100 this past August. “She faced all the challenges that came with being an African American woman. She had the courage and persistence to keep going even though she was getting rejected,” Trisha told us. “Katherine Johnson inspires me because she gives me courage and has taught me to keep going.” This is the beautiful result of that inspiration!

We were initially introduced to Trisha through her children’s book “Believe in Yourself”. The inspiring story she wrote, which vibrantly comes to life through the collage of her beautiful drawings and paintings that pepper each page, follows Sunshine the pup (a character based on Trisha’s real-life Cocker Spaniel of the same name) and Papa Dog, as they go on “a journey through the jungles of the world”. Together, they learn valuable life-lessons from their animal friends about the power of inner strength, encouragement, love and gratitude.

Believe in Yourself” started as a poem Trisha wrote in the summer of 2015 at age 8. Poetry has always been her vehicle of choice to calm her school-related anxiety and bolster her self-confidence. After seeing news reports about the horrific Syrian refugee crisis, Trisha wanted to extend her words of comfort to encourage children everywhere to believe in themselves. 

Working with her parents and friends, her poem was turned into a book that has been inspiring kids everywhere since its 2016 release. Over the last three years, Trisha and her family have been on a mission to get “Believe in Yourself” into the hands of as many children as possible, pledging to donate a copy of the book to a refugee child for every copy sold.

Our sincere thanks to Trisha (and her mom and dad, Sumana and Rajesh) for honoring us with the gift of her talents and for inspiring us. You can follow her personal journey at TrishaRao.com.